Please God Make Your Goodness Pass Before Me
The prayer of Moses contained in Exodus 33:18, Show me your GLORY, was the theme of our 2009 Conference. The Hebrew word rendered “glory” is (Strong 03519) “kabowd” or “kabod” which signifies “glory” or “splendour”, “honour”, “dignity”, “reputation”, “reverence”.
What is the glory of a person, object, setting or circumstance? It is the highest characteristic, the noblest quality, the most splendid attribute, that which ranks highest in that person, object, setting or circumstance. Moses asked to see or experience that which is highest in God.The title of my article is a plea based on the disclosure that emerged out of the request by Moses. I trust it reflects the desire of all who read - Please God make your goodness pass before us!
For you see God's response to Moses' prayer was - "I will make all My goodness pass before you ….” (v. 19).
The Hebrew word (Strong 02898) “tuwb” rendered “goodness” contains among other things the ideas of “goods”, “good things”, “property”, even “prosperity” as much as that of “goodness”. Linking the request with the response we find that God said that His glory is revealed in His attributes and that those attributes reflect His goodness.
That worthy preacher of the once biblically sound London based Westminster Chapel, Dr G. Campbell Morgan (1863-1945), commenting on this prayer of Moses and the response of God observed that “the Glory of God is the goodness of God and the goodness of God is the glory of God.”
Or as Dr. John Oswald Sanders (1902-1992), a general director of the Overseas Missionary Fellowship formerly the China Inland Mission put it: God's goodness and glory are enshrined in His name, in His moral character. Moses did not see the full glory of God in its unveiled effulgence (splendour) - only the afterglow that He left behind as He passed by (Exodus 33:20-23).
And he (Moses) said, "Please, show me Your glory." Then He (God) said, "I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." But He said, "You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live." And the LORD said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen” - Exodus 33:18-23.
I propose to break my topic briefly into three parts:
1. The Man who Prayed the Prayer and Why;
2. The Prayer that He Prayed and to Whom; and
3. The Response that he Received and How it Impacted upon him and relates to usI. It was the Man Moses who prayed that Prayer and of him we read:
Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth - Numbers 12:3The King James Version says he was “very meek”—the meekest of all men—the chief among those who are destined to “inherit the earth” for Jesus said:
Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth - Matthew 5: 5
You will notice that the description of Moses' character in Numbers 12: 3 is placed in parenthesis as being the divine aside comment regarding a significant incident in the history of Israel, when Miriam and Aaron, sister and brother to Moses, took it upon themselves to speak against their brother regarding his marital situation.
The marriage of an Israeli to an Ethiopian, though generally frowned upon in that economy, was really none of their business. It seems clear that the criticism was made in public and that Miriam was the instigator seeing she suffered most. Her ill-advised comment was so serious in the eyes of the Lord that she was struck with leprosy and banished from the camp for a season—put out of fellowship. The pertinent point for us to note is that the entire action, God's judgment upon Miriam and Aaron, was predicated upon this great characteristic of Moses—MEEKNESS or otherwise expressed, his HUMILITY.
So what we can deduce from this is that when Moses, many years previously, shortly after Israel set out on their 40 years of wilderness wandering, had asked to see or experience God's Glory he did not do so with any grandiose ideas of self advancement. It was an honest desire to see and know God. There was no self- interest. Meek or humble men and women are not self-promoters or self-seekers. They accept their office—high or low, without ambition or pride!
Previous to his prayer Moses had instigated many splendid displays of the supernatural glory of God as he commanded Aaron to stretch his rod over the Nile to turn its waters to blood, and to wave it in the air to cause the wind to breath out locusts and lice and later he brought judgment upon Egypt as he took his own rod and separated the sea to provide escape for Israel and death to Pharaoh's army. Lesser men would have harked back to those unparalleled displays of divine glory and would have rested on their laurels, but not this meekest of all men, for he recognized two truths:
1. Firstly we can never exhaust God's greatness and glory. There are no blind alleys with Him. No matter what has happened in history there are always greater things up ahead. “Please God make Your Goodness pass before us.”
2. The second lesson that we learn in this connection as we reflect on this man Moses, is that no matter what heights we reach there will always be fresh challenges that cry out for displays of God's Glory. God's people, including each one us, can be “stiff necked” and that presents us with fresh challenges; we cannot, dare not, rely on yesterday's manifestation of God's Goodness. We need fresh displays of glory, even now.
This, I feel, is what motivated Paul the apostle, possibly the third greatest man of all time, when towards the end of his life, and remember that he was executed for his faith, as far as we know, in his 50s, he called out from his prison:
But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yes, indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus – Philippians 3: 7-14.J. Oswald Sanders, quoted previously, points out in the section of his article headed Moses on the Mountain that in the Sinai setting, where Moses prayed that great prayer and received the divine response we can detect four circles of people:
A. The Outer Circle (Exodus 19:11-12) being the nation at large:
They could approach the mountain, but they could not ascend it, on pain of death. Barriers were erected to keep them at a distance from God. ….
The subsequent reactions of the people clearly demonstrated that they were neither qualified for nor desirous of coming too close to God. There were obviously conditions for a fresh revelation of God. They did have a vision of God, but to them "the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the mountain top" (Exodus 24:17).
B. The Second Circle (Exodus 24:9-11) comprised Moses, Aaron, Nadab Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel
That group pressed past the barriers that excluded the rest of the nation and had a much more intimate vision of God than the people: "Under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself." They had a limited vision of God in His transcendence, a glimpse of the Eternal. It was probably a theophany (an actual appearance of God to man). "They beheld God, and they ate and drank" (Exodus 24:11).
They must have felt a very real and conscious sense of the divine presence. Their experience was far in advance of that of the people, but it effected no permanent transformation. Only a short time later, they were found worshipping the golden calf. They had a vision of God but showed that they were not qualified to ascend to the top of the mountain into deeper fellowship with God.
C. The Third Circle (Exodus 24:13-14) – Moses and Joshua
How quickly the numbers dwindled as the mountain path grew steeper! Of all Israel, only two qualified for inclusion in the third circle of intimacy. What was Joshua's special qualification for that privilege? A clue is given in Exodus 33:10- 12:
"When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would arise and worship .... Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.
"The tent was the place where the Shekinah glory rested, and where God manifested Himself to His people. "Joshua...would not depart from the tent … ".
As Moses' servant he would have many errands to go on and services to perform, but whenever he was free from those duties, he made his way to the tent. He wanted to be where God manifested Himself. He would have been present on many occasions when the Lord spoke to Moses face to face; thus he enjoyed an intimacy with God excelled only by that of his leader, Moses. Although he fell short of the vision granted to Moses, he ascended higher on the glory-covered mountain than any of his contemporaries. The lesson for us does not need to be spelled out
.D. The Inner Circle (Exodus 24:15-17) – Moses Alone with God
Then Moses went up to the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. And the glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days: and on the seventh day, He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud (v. 15 & 16).
The divine summons must have filled Moses with awe as he climbed alone, for "the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the mountain top" (Exodus 24:17). The people in the outer circle saw only the consuming fire and feared. But Moses saw in it the glory of God...and worshipped.Then Mr Sanders draws his conclusions of what happened to Moses
1. Moses Experienced a Deepening Intimacy of Communion with God
"Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face just as a man speaks to his friend" (Ex. 33:11). "With him will I speak mouth to mouth" (Num. 12:8). What could be more intimate - friend to friend, face to face, mouth to mouth? Is there any parallel to that in our experience?
2. He Shared the Divine Perspective
Moses was daring enough to make the request, "Let me know your ways" (Ex. 33:13). He desired to know his Friend's principles of action, to share His purposes, and God opened His heart to Moses and revealed something of His own inner nature.
3. He Experienced a Test in the Area of Ambition
the nation turned to worship the golden calf in Moses' absence, God's anger was kindled, and He said to Moses, "Now let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation" (Ex. 32:10). Moses' integrity and disinterested (unselfish) love for his people found expression in his audacious response to the divine proposition:
"But now, if You will, forgive their sin - and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!" ( Ex. 32:32). The intensity and selflessness of his intercession grew out of his growing intimacy with God. Not only did he refuse to profit at their expense, but he was willing to sacrifice his privileged position in their favour.
4. He had a Surpassing Revelation of God's Glory.
Communion with God kindled in Moses an intense desire to know Him better. "I pray You, show me Your glory!" was his request (Ex. 33:18). God's answer gave him, and us, an insight into the nature of His glory: "
I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you.... The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished" (Ex. 33:19; 34:6-7).God's goodness and glory are enshrined in His name, in His moral character. Moses did not see the full glory of God in its unveiled effulgence (splendour) - only the afterglow that He left behind as He passed by (Ex. 33:20-23).
5. Some of God's Glory Rubbed off on Moses.
"When Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai... Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of His speaking with him” (Ex. 34:29). That is still the divine prescription for radiance. Had we lived in those Old Testament times, in which group would we be found? With the crowd? The seventy-four? The two? The one?
II. The Prayer was made to God and of Him it is proclaimed:
No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him – John 1:18.
The interaction of God and Moses on the mount was protracted. The events are not easy to decipher. If Exodus chapters 19 to 33 record sequential incidents it would appear that Moses made seven journeys up Mt Sinai. In chapter 19 alone he ascended the mountain three times, which means that the verbal giving of the Decalogue or Ten Commandments recorded in Exodus 20:1- 17 probably occurred on the occasion of Moses' third climb up the mountain. It was during the 40 days and nights following his fifth ascent that the first writing on the stone tablets occurred and after his sixth Sinai meeting with God that Moses prayed his prayer –
“Show me your glory” not on the mountain but in the Tabernacle of the Congregation also called the Tent of Meeting, which Moses removed to outside the Camp on account of Israel's rebellion in the golden calf incident.
This means that the second engraving of the Ten Commandments on the tablets of stone took place on the occasion of Moses' seventh ascent of the mountain. It could well be that Moses spent two sets of 40 days and 40 nights, not just one, in his communion with God on Mt Sinai. As I say it's not easy to confirm this dogmatically, but that's how it appears to work out as far as the historic record in Exodus chapters 19 to 34 is concerned.So we have in summary Moses being several times summoned to meet God on Mt Sinai where he spent at least one and possibly two periods of almost six weeks each—a total of nearly 3 months—plus other shorter periods in the presence of God, during which time he received instructions about the construction of the Tabernacle and its furnishings and was given the Law—the Decalogue or Ten Commandments plus the religious, ceremonial, moral and ritualistic laws required of Israel.The character, prayer and conduct of Moses albeit “glorious” is nonetheless rather complicated:For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ - John 1:17.
Before we turn to that particular aspect, (and let me add that the messianic content is the heart of Moses' prayer), let me trace briefly the development of this marvellous prayer of Moses.Show me your Glory is not a request in isolation but rather the consummation of an important development in Moses as an intercessor as he penetrates the character and nature of God. In chapter 32 he faces a dilemma in his own heart and mind. On the one hand God issues a call for judgment upon Israel His own people. He says in verse 10:Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them.
So the first option is total Divine Judgment, which is a dreadful contemplation but with an apparent good outcome. God says I will blot them out and then I will start all over again with you. It doesn't sound a bad option—from now on Moses will be the head of the whole thing. But there's a problem and this is where Moses the meekest man in all the earth faces his dilemma. It's a choice that contains three elements but only two options and dare I say we all will face that choice somewhere along the line—maybe repeatedly and some of us have already faced it and will face it again.At its heart it involves the character and nature of God as opposed to human will and desires. Here is Moses' trilemma: down the hill are a people that he was called to pastor—very human in their fickleness, sin and rebellion. Away from it all and somewhat remote on the mountain are God and Moses. In essence Moses stands between the living and the dead, what will he do? God knows what He (God) will do. He always does, so it's not God who is on trial here, but rather Moses, who resolves the matter by recognising one overall and three subsidiary facts:
the Divine Record is already established – Exodus 32 verse 11:
Then Moses pleaded with the LORD his God, and said: "LORD, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?”
Moses did not own the people; they belonged to God. It was not Moses who brought them out of Egypt; it was God. That is established as part of the divine record and history cannot be changed. So accepting that as an axiom, Moses presents his case—a case against God carrying out the threat of blotting Israel out and starting afresh with Moses. There are three objective arguments against God acting in judgment—one is implicit, hidden, yet under girding; two are clear, explicit—openly enunciated by Moses.The hidden, underlying reason why God cannot destroy Israel is that it will contravene His Character, the understanding of which is not fully disclosed to Moses and thus to us until God's response to the prayer – “Show me your Glory”.
It is an extension of Abraham's discovery, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25). God cannot do other than RIGHT at all times, but, “God why is that?” “Show me your GLORY”!
The first explicit reason is given in Exodus 32 verse 12:
Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, 'He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth'? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people.Moses says to God, “Your honour is at stake here.” Back in Egypt the understanding before Pharaoh and his people was that you were going to deliver Israel as your people into a future heritage; not that you were going to lead them out and then destroy them. You can't do it.The second reason is given in verse 13:Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, 'I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.'
Your Word is at stake. You gave your promise and made your covenant not with Moses but with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and while I'm honoured to think that you are prepared to do it through me and to make of me a greater people, that is not the point. God gives His word and God always keeps His Word even if we don't.
God's Character is unassailable , unimpeachable and that is the underlying truth that Moses recognises and the test that he passes. He is not called the meekest man in the all the earth for nothing. So when he prays Show me your glory he is actually asking for the last veil, in so far as the Old Covenant is concerned, to be taken away and for God to reveal who and what He is and how He operates. The one thing that is missing is the goodness, kindness and mercy of God.In a further build up to that point in Exodus 33:13 we read of Moses:
Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.
Like the Psalmist Moses prayed in effect:Teach me Your way, O LORD, and lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies - Psalm 27:11Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name - Psalm 86:11He (God) made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel - Psalm 103:7
III. The Response that Moses Received and how it impacts upon us.
Then He (God) said, "I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion."
But He (God) said, "You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live." And the LORD said, "Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen." – Exodus 33:19-23
You can't see me Moses. No man can see ME and live. The Seraphim cover their faces and their feet in my presence. No man can see me! The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. Moses - Here is a place by Me … Stand on the ROCK …Paul tells us of Israel – 1 Corinthians 10:4
and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them and that Rock was Christ.
Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me - Text:
Augustus M. Toplady, 1740-1778;
Music: Thomas Hastings, 1784-1872;
Tune: TOPLADY, Meter: 77.77.77
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.
Not the labours of my hands
Can fulfil Thy law's demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die.
While I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eyelids close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.
Earlier I suggested that the messianic content is the heart of Moses' prayer and that we would return to that later.In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. - John 1:1-14.
"Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom." Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light – Matthew 16:28-17:2.
Peter, the apostle was there and later he wrote:
For He received from God the Father honour and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain – 2 Peter 1:17-18No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us – 1 John 4: 12.
They saw and heard greater things than Moses, but that's for later.
Next - MAN'S CHIEF END IS TO GLORIFY GOD